James McDonald Impressive in Extra Inning Loss

By Troy Pfaff

Thankfully, it’s still Spring Training. Days like today are sure to come during the regular season, but each one takes its toll on a baseball team.

The Pittsburgh Pirates led the Houston Astros 4-1 entering the ninth inning thanks in part to a masterful seven-inning outing from starter James McDonald. McDonald allowed one run on just two hits and struck out three. He carried a no-hitter through 5 1/3.

Chris Resop replaced McDonald and pitched a perfect eighth inning, getting two strikeouts.

Then came the ninth. During the regular season, the Pirates would bring in 40-save man Joel Hanrahan to shut down the ninth. Today, they brought in Ryota Igarashi.

Igarashi promptly walked the first two batters he faced and allowed a three-run home run to the third. It was tough to watch after the awesome pitching performance the Pirates had received through the first eight innings. Daniel Moskos took over for Igarashi with one out and a man on base and got the Pirates out of the inning tied.

For the tenth inning, the Bucs brought in seven defensive replacements, most notably Josh Rodriguez who made a key error on a play that allowed the eventual game-winning run to score.

A 10-inning loss after eight innings of solid baseball is generally heartbreaking. Then again, Joel Hanrahan is usually closing the game out and Josh Rodriguez generally isn’t playing short stop.

The Pirates will undoubtedly take more good than heartbreak from this game. Josh Harrison went 2-for-4 and continues to hit the ball well as he competes for a spot on the big league bench. Neil Walker drove in two two-out runs and Garrett Jones hit a home run.

Plus, J-Mac went seven innings. That in itself could be enough to call today a success, considering McDonald lasted seven innings just twice last season.

Tomorrow, Brad Lincoln takes the mound for the Bucs at 1:05 PM for the second part of a home-and-home with the Astros.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff

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